Yesterday morning I watched the Democracy Now! clip of Tom Hayden addressing the 2015 Teach in on the power of Vietnam War protest and I was particularly struck by his emphasis on movements finding the way to unity.
As we face the 2016 election those of us in the self-selected, dissatisfied minority who are deeply concerned about the need for change might contemplate Hayden's suggestion of finding a path to unity.
"The deepest motivation I know is love."
Unity does not mean lock-step agreement on every issue or detail, it does mean finding an avenue by which to bring our presently atomized struggles for peace, the environment, racial, social, and economic justice together.
None of our struggles can achieve a lonely objective for change without all the other struggles joining in across lines of class, race and gender. We all know it, but have not been able to bridge the divides by calling for transformative change together.
Thus, we find ourselves in the eleventh hour of deep global crisis with expanding wars – any of which can escalate so that nuclear weapons are used – and climate change which is upon us with stunning rapidity.
It is increasingly clear that all global regimes as currently established are inadequate to the monumental tasks ahead and that people's movements must arise around the world to save the day.
How might this happen?
Here are some suggestions for those of us in the U.S.
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Existing organizations that take on pieces of social change work could convene meetings across issues. This might be accomplished if staff meet with each other and begin to delegate representatives to start talking with other groups.
Conversations can be built out in ever expanding circles with engaged activists and community groups so that more and more people find an avenue to participate in the struggle.
Make it easy, not hard. Keep the language open, non-violent and inclusive, not filled with acronyms and jargon. Make every effort to find the points of compromise and agreement as possible, without focusing on the disagreements. Any positive step will build on itself and move the struggle forward. People are hungry for positive change and representative bodies that work – make it happen.
Five or six crucial components must be identified and agreed upon, such as calling for:
- ending all the wars immediately, cut off arms trading, cease bombing, convene nuclear abolition talks as required by the NPT, end military giveaways to police departments that significantly increase the militarization of police, increasing the level of violence in our communities
- halting all invasive energy projects – mountaintop removal, pipelines, fracking
- shifting resources to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy as we already know can be done from the Solutions Project at Stanford University.
- meeting needs: jobs, housing, single-payer healthcare and education are crucial for all of us, our basic needs must be met across lines of race and class and across the planet.
- addressing terrorism by minimizing the conditions (disenfranchisement, violence) by which it takes root and flourishes.
- placing the needs of the 65 million refugees front and center so that the global humanitarian crisis is alleviated – this cannot be done with guns and bombs, but with providing food, shelter, healthcare, education. If the violence is brought to a halt, maybe people will be able to return home.
Here in the U.S., the Pentagon cannot account for 6.5 trillion dollars as detailed in a report issued this past July. The permanent wars, the war economy and war culture intransigence are impeding needed change. This has to be addressed by the larger community, not just the "peaceniks."
Robert Pollin in Greening the Global Economy, states that an investment of roughly $200 billion/year is what is required to bring our emissions down by 40 percent within 20 years and 80 percent by 2050. Inadequate, and nonbinding pledges such as the COP 21 agreement in Paris will not solve the problem.
The cost of addressing climate change reasonably with many social benefits amounts to Pentagon pennies.
The transformational changes needed by our planet are possible, but as it now stands, global leaders will not do it for us. Organized groups of people must persuade them it is in all our interest to do so and to do this we need to be united in ways we have not been in the past but that is possible to do.
The deepest motivation I know is love: love of people (for our differences and in spite of them) and love of this (still green, but imperiled!) planet and perhaps if we keep that love as our guiding light we can persevere through the necessary struggles and emerge on the other side at long last.